Feb 14, 2008

Shell Continue Harassment of The Ogoni In The Rivers State

Following a story first reported on this website earlier this week, UNPO President Ledum Mitee of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP) comments on the situation in Ogoniland.

Following a story first reported on this website earlier this week, UNPO President Ledum Mitee of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP) comments on the situation in Ogoniland.

Below is an article written by UNPO:

On 11 December 2007, Nigeria’s Niger Delta was once again affected by major oil spills and air pollution from the subsequent fires.  Just the most recent in a long catalogue of accidents, the oil spills reflect the ageing infrastructure used by the oil companies in the Niger Delta.  Since the exploitation of oil in the Delta began in earnest in the early 1960s, there has been only a limited modernization of facilities. 

The most prominent force in the Delta is the Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria, which includes as its partners the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, Total, and Agip.  Through a continuous programme of exploration, extraction, and refining, these companies are able to exploit the vast resources of the Delta.  The way in which the oil resources are managed and distributed however has been the cause of widespread resentment among local people.

Criss-crossing the rich agricultural land of the Delta are the numerous pipelines that carry oil at pressure over farmland and through villages.  With little consideration for those living in their midst, these pipelines have coursed through prime agricultural land, key water sources, and the cemeteries of the local Ogoni people. 

While the oil that lies beneath the Niger Delta finds its way to the offshore tanker terminals, by-products of the extraction process are simply burned at site.  The result is a landscape illuminated at night by roaring flares that burn twenty-four hours a day, releasing harmful gases into the environment, and leaving surrounding homes and land covered in a fine black powder.  As soon as it begins to rain, this black ink of soot and water runs down from roofs to the fields and watercourses, carrying with it numerous chemicals which go on to denude the landscape and damage the livelihoods of local people.  Speaking at the most recent protest to be held, MOSOP’s Information Officer, Bari-ara Kpalap reasserted MOSOP’s stance in supporting “all those opposing gas flaring, which has been a curse on the Niger Delta for 50 years.  It has damaged our environment daily, and now it is contributing to climate change which threatens all of Africa”.

Until 1990 there were limited channels for local people to make their grievances known, but with the founding of MOSOP in the same year a concerted drive was made to raise awareness of the environmental degradation facing the Ogoni and their neighbors in the Niger Delta.  The movement gained international visibility with the murder by Nigeria’s then military leaders of MOSOP president Ken Saro-wiwa, Baribor Bera, Saturday Dobee, Nordu Eawo, Daniel Gbokoo, Barinem Kiobel, John Kpuinen, Paul Levura, and Felix Nuate.

Eighteen years since its founding and despite its vehement commitment to adhere to the principle of nonviolent protest, the leader of the movement, Ledum Mitee noted that the Nigerian government “appears to see and respond to the Niger Delta issue championed by our crusade via the narrow prism of those who unleash violence and do other condemnable acts”. 

The lack of action in addressing the failing oil infrastructure, environmental destruction, and poverty in Nigeria richest province is leading to a radicalization of the young which threatens to bring violence back to the Delta.  If recognition, and more importantly, action, is not forthcoming the oil companies and the Nigerian authorities may find themselves having to deal with actors who are not as restrained, patient, or indeed peaceful, as MOSOP.  To miss that opportunity risks bringing a tragedy upon the people of the Niger Delta and Nigeria as a whole.

Note: Mr Litee has also commented on the issues facing Ogoni people in Nigeria as part of a documentary first broadcast by Al Jazeera television on 14 April 2007.

To view the documentary, please follow the links below:

Al Jazeera - People in Power: Democracy Delta-Style (Part 1)

Al Jazeera - People in Power: Democracy Delta-Style (Part 2)

Al Jazeera - People in Power: Democracy Delta-Style (Part 3)

Al Jazeera - People in Power: Democracy Delta-Style (Part 4)

Suggested further reading:

Climate Justice Programme & Environmental Rights Action, Gas Flaring in Nigeria: A Human Rights, Environmental, and Economic Monstrosity, (Amsterdam, 2005).

[PDF file size: 5.4 MB]

Okonta, I., & O. Douglas, Where Vultures Feast: Shell, Human Rights, and Oil in the Niger Delta, (London, 2003).

Shell Nigeria Annual Report 2006

[PDF file size: 1.8 MB]